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Surf club’s tribute to Welsh hero of 2021 River Cleddau paddleboarding tragedy

31 Oct 2022 3 minute read
Aberavon Surf Club held a special event in memory of Paul O’Dwyer, who died in the River Cleddau paddle boarding tragedy after jumping into the water to save two women.

A south Wales surf club held a tribute yesterday in memory of a club friend who died in a paddle boarding tragedy on a river in west Wales after jumping into the water to save two women.

On 30 October, 2021, four people lost their lives in a paddleboarding tragedy after entering a flooded River Cleddau.

Three people were pronounced dead at the scene after they got into difficulty in the flooded and turbulent waters.

Paul O’Dwyer, 42, from Sandfields, Port Talbot, Morgan Rogers, 24, of Cefin Coed, Merthyr Tydfil, and Nicola Wheatley, 40, from Pontardulais, Swansea were all pronounced dead at the scene.

A fourth person, Andrea Powell, 41, from Bridgend, was rescued from the water and taken to Withybush Hospital with critical injuries, but later died.

A further five people were pulled out of the river by the emergency services uninjured.

They were part of a group of nine paddleboarders from the South Wales Paddle Boarders and Salty Dog Co, an organisation based in Port Talbot that was spending the weekend exploring the River Cleddau.

One of the paddle boarders who was on the trip, Vickie Mckinven from Milford Haven, had previously told PA Media former soldier and father-of-three Mr O’Dwyer had died attempting to rescue two fellow paddleboarders who had got into difficulty near the weir.

Ms Mckinven said: “Paul did lose his life attempting to save two of the girls also in distress due to an unexpected downpour.

“Absolutely heartbreaking, [they were] all good friends; and did so much to raise money for charities.”

Yesterday, 30 October, 2022, Aberavon Surf Club held a special event in memory of Mr O’Dwyer, a friend of many club members; with surfers taking to the water in his memory.

Club member Matthew Tamlyn said: “Our thoughts have very much been with Paul and all of his loved ones today – never forgotten.”

‘Infectious smile’

Mr O’Dwyer was an ex-soldier and had served with The Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers 108 Welsh Squadron militia.

After leaving the military he became one one of the founders of charity SA1UTE, which supports veterans in the South Wales area.

He was also a member of the Aberavon Green Stars RFC, who had paid tribute to his “upbeat” character and “infectious smile”.

It described Mr O’Dwyer as an “avid adventurer, whether he would be paddle boarding, surfing, skiing, walking, or climbing nothing was too small for Paul to achieve”.

“No doubt Paul put his own life on the line yesterday to make sure others were safe.”

Another hero

Mr O’Dwyer was not the only hero on the day.

Local man Joel Williams entered the water and dragged a person out onto the banks of the Cleddau where he administered CPR before the arrival of  emergency services.

A massive rescue operation was launched that included crews from Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Wales Ambulance Service Trust, Dyfed-Powys Police, the Coast Guard and the RNLI. Their search activity was assisted by helicopters.

Dyfed-Powys Police have said investigations are continuing into the exact circumstances surrounding the incident.

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